Do voters care about education?

Education didn’t get any attention in the first presidential debate, not even “free college.” Do voters care about education in 2016? asks AEI.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton didn't discuss education in their first debate.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton didn’t discuss education in their first debate.

Only 3 percent of people told Gallup that education is “the most important problem facing this country today,” in the September survey. The economy was the top concern.

That’s typical. Few people rate education as the “most important” issue.

However, looking at Gallup and CBS News polls, education typically ranks “in the upper one-half to one-third of national concerns.”

Who’s poor? Non-working singles

Alex Caicedo found full-time work and climbed above the poverty line last year. Photo: Justin T. Gellerson/New York Times

Millions of Americans are climbing out of poverty, reported the New York Times yesterday in a front-page story. “Poverty declined among every group,” according to Census data, with African-Americans and Hispanics making the greatest gains.

Over all, 2.9 million more jobs were created from 2014 to 2015, helping millions of unemployed people cross over into the ranks of regular wage earners. Many part-time workers increased the number of hours on the job. Wages, adjusted for inflation, climbed.

The number of employed adults per household explains much of income inequality, writes Mark Perry on Carpe Diem. The Census report, Income and Poverty in the United States, also shows the importance of marriage and education.

There are more than two full-time earners in the average top-quintile household compared to .43 for the lowest quintile in income.

While 62 percent of bottom quintile households had no earners in 2015, that was true for only 3.7 percent of top-quintile homes.

Require welfare recipients to work reduces poverty and improves lives, writes AEI’s Lawrence Mead.

A major cause of poverty is simply that few poor adults, both men and women, work regularly. The welfare reform of the late 1990s caused millions of welfare mothers to leave welfare for work, reducing the rolls by two-thirds and making most of the leavers better off. As work levels among poor mothers soared, poverty among children and minorities plunged to the lowest levels in history.

Work requirements should be extended to food stamps and housing subsidies, he argues. “We should also develop work programs for poor men in connection with child support and criminal justice.

Clinton and Trump on education


Education Week’s graphics summarize where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on education.

Rick Hess thinks President Trump would be Barack Obama’s “spiritual heir.” And not in a good way.

Trump’s bossiness “would be entirely consistent with the Obama administration’s ‘pen and phone’ approach to teacher evaluation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers, school discipline, campus sexual assault, supplement-not-supplant, and much else.”

College prep does little to boost outcomes

Taking advanced classes in high school does little to prepare students for college success, write Gregory Ferenstein and Brad Hershbein on Brookings’ Chalkboard blog.

In 2009, a federal review found “low evidence” that increasing the rigor of college-prep courses and adding Advanced Placement options produce better college outcomes, they write.

Relationship between college grades (first course) and high school course-taking

Relationship between college grades (first course) and high school course-taking

Their research looked at college grades for students who’d taken the same course in high school compared to those trying that subject for the first time. In physics, psychology, economics and sociology, the differences were “trivially small.” 

However, students who’d taken calculus in high school did modestly better in college calculus.

It’s likely high school students “often learn the wrong things, do not sufficiently focus on the critical thinking commonly needed in college, or simply forget much of what they learned,” they speculate.

They suggest schools “experiment with innovative and experimental courses” such as “non-cognitive skill development and technical education.”

Freshman year for free: Don’t show up

“Free college” is already here, for students who can handle online learning. Modern States Education Alliance‘s Freshman Year for Free kicked off this fall: Students can earn a year of no-cost college credit via edX classes.

With funding from philanthropist Steven B. Klinsky, Modern States has given edX the money to develop more than 30 entry-level college courses, taught by “some of the world’s leading universities and professors,” according to the New York-based nonprofit.

Image result for moocs

In addition to online lectures, each course includes quizzes and tests. Textbooks and other learning materials will be provided online at no charge.

Courses will prepare students to pass Advanced Placement or College Level Examination Program” (CLEP) tests offered by the College Board. Courses include Sociology, Chemistry, Macroeconomics, Marketing, Business Law and more.

The Texas State University System is encouraging nontraditional (adult) students to skip freshman year by using the edX classes, reports the Texas Trib.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) tend to have very low completion rates, especially for less-educated students. However, that’s partly due to the uncertain payoff: Those who stick with the course typically don’t earn credit.

Pedal power raises math grades


Students can choose to pedal during class. Photo: Paul Cory/Wake County Public Schools

Pedal power is helping kids pay attention and learn more math at a North Carolina middle school, reports BBC News.

Bethany Lambeth’s students had trouble sitting still. She put 10 bike pedals under desks and let them try to burn off energy quietly during lessons.

Students said it improved their focus.

“They were able to recall a lot more of what I was saying and because they participated more they understood more and they did better in tests.”

As a result she says their test grades demonstrably improved from when the pedals were introduced in April compared to earlier in the school year.

The school hopes to buy bike pedals for more classrooms.

U.S. kids lag in belittling skills, vocabulary

Most U.S. students lack the language skills and vocabulary necessary to belittle classmates effectively, according to the National Center for Education Research, reports The Onion.

“Unfortunately, most of our students are finishing high school with only a fifth-grade ability to shame and deride their peers,” said report co-author and educational psychologist Joyce Marrone. “While they know how to identify a loser, they lack the semantic tools to articulate exactly why that person is so lame, ugly, or stupid.”

The average eighth-grader knows only two synonyms for “slut,” the study found.

It’s critical for students to master the ability “to subtly question a female’s competence or snidely remark on a male’s perceived lack of masculinity,” notes The Onion.

Said Marrone, “If they don’t achieve linguistic proficiency while in school, they’ll never develop the gossiping, bad-mouthing, or shit-talking skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce.”

Everyone hates sex ed

Kids around the world hate sex education, concludes an analysis of 55 studies conducted in 10 countries.

In addition to the U.S., students were surveyed in UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Iran, Brazil and Sweden between 1990 and 2015, reports TIME.

Schools “don’t take into account that sex is a potentially embarrassing and anxiety provoking topic,” study author Pandora Pound, a research fellow at the University of Bristol, told TIME. “The result can be awkward, painful and unsatisfactory for all involved.”

The second major problem was that schools seemed to deny that their students were sexually active, which made the information out of touch with reality, irrelevant and overly skewed toward heterosexual intercourse, the researchers say. There was little practical information: telling students about community-health services, for example, what to do if they got pregnant or the pros and cons of different kinds of birth control. Teachers also presented the information as overly scientific, with hardly a nod to pleasure and desire; female pleasure, specifically, was rarely mentioned.

Sex ed “needs to be delivered by experts who are sex positive, who enjoy their work and who are in a position to maintain clear boundaries with students,” Pound says. Students say it’s “cringey” to hear their regular teachers discussing sex.

From zero tolerance to zero control

To replace inflexible zero-tolerance policies, schools are adopting inflexible “no student removal” policies, writes Richard Ullman a high school teacher in Allegany County, New York, in an Education Week commentary.

Image result for violent students

Keeping “dangerous and defiant students” in the classroom makes it difficult for teachers to teach and students to learn, he argues.

If Johnny can’t read very well, the teacher gets the blame, writes Ullman. “It have more to do with the pathologically disruptive classmate who, given infinite ‘second chances’ by detached policymakers and feckless administrators, never gets removed from Johnny’s classroom.”

“Restorative justice” programs, which stress counseling, try to keep students in school, he writes. “Higher suspension and expulsion figures for minority students” are blamed for what’s known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

However, while all educators must be mindful of biases and pushing out kids considered at risk, it bears emphasizing that the biggest victims of warehousing miscreants are the large numbers of nondisruptive, genuinely teachable students who tend to come from the same home environments as their poorly behaved classmates.

. . .  just how many times should the student who spews obscenities be sent back to class with no reprisals? Just how much instructional time has to be sacrificed to hold yet another assembly on why yet another schoolwide brawl occurred?

Administrators and “experts” are raising the academic bar while they’re lowering or eliminating discipline standards, writes Ullman. Teachers are left to do the heavy lifting.

Rosetta Stone replaces teachers in Maine

Unable to find a French and Spanish teacher, a Maine high school will use Rosetta Stone software to teach foreign languages, reports Rachel Ohm in the Morning Sentinel. An educational technician will help students with the software.

In Madison, a small town in central Maine, 67 out of 215 high school students take French or Spanish.

Rosetta Stone is used in more than 4,000 schools nationwide, though usually to supplement rather than replace a human teacher, reports Ohm.

Paige Wong, 17, is learning Spanish via Rosetta Stone at Madison High in Maine. Photo: Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Paige Wong, 17, is learning Spanish via Rosetta Stone at Madison High in Maine. Photo: Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Students can work at their own pace, though they’re expected to finish one language level by the end of the year.

The program quizzes students and repeats lessons if they haven’t achieved mastery.

“In a regular classroom, that wouldn’t happen,” (aide Nicholas) Paradis said. “The teacher would say, ‘OK, you got an 80. You’re good forever. Bye.’ Instead, everyone that got an 80 now has to come back and take the quiz again.”

The program teaches 30 languages. Ninth grader Aidan O’Donnell decided to take German, which the school hasn’t offered before.

Madison High will try to hire a foreign language teacher next year, even if Rosetta Stone is a success, said Principal Jessica Ward. “Yes, they are learning the language with the Rosetta Stone program, but I worry that they are missing out on the cultural education and the personal touch of having a real teacher available.”

Via Education Week Teacher.

Technolgy won’t replace teachers, writes Thomas Arnett on the Christensen blog.

The truth is, in the era of artificial intelligence, the most valued and secure jobs will be those that require complex social skills—such as teaching. Good teachers do more than just convey information. They coach and mentor their students to make learning relevant and meaningful, and they foster students’ interests in tackling complex, real-world problems. And while technology can replicate teachers’ expertise in dispensing information and assessing students’ knowledge of rote facts and skills, it is far from replacing the teacher’s role in providing expert feedback on critical thinking, communication, and leadership.

Technology can handle some teaching tasks, he adds. “But the more we utilize the best recorded lectures, documentary films, and instructional technologies to replace live lectures, the more we can free up teachers to spend their time working closely with their students to foster deeper learning.”